The last decade started on 'greed is good' with college students in droves wanting jobs on Wall Street, and ended with Wall-Streeters the most hated 'club' in the world, with demonstrators murdering bank workers in Greece and EU leaders fearing that this kind of citizens lash back will spread to their countries. The last few years of not only financial meltdowns driven by greed and so-called 'moral hazards,' the uptick in counterfeiting, and poor controls of business processes that lead to oil spills, miners' deaths, what to say of the well-fueled lobbies in Washington, have led many to call for establishment of the Chief Ethics Officer. (Too bad this wasn't the Chief Legal Counsel's job, but they don't provide moral compass, it seems.)
One of the interesting developments of the human spirit in the modern age is that they don't see themselves as 'different at work than at home' and an overall striving for more spirit (whatever your path). An article from the Wall Street Journal brings up this issue of values vs. legalities.
"At a time when Enron's collapse is churning up thorny ethical and legal problems for its accountants, lawyers and executives, the question arises: How accountable should McKinsey, its strategy advisor, be? Though courts generally haven't found consultants liable for their advice, McKinsey's long and close relationship to Enron inevitably raises questions about how much the company knew about financial irregularities that only surfaced last summer.
A McKinsey spokesman said: "In serving Enron, McKinsey was not retained to provide advice to Enron or any Enron-affiliated entity with respect to the company's financial reporting strategy, methods of financing, methods of disclosure, investment partnerships or off-balance-sheet financing vehicles."
Yet, says Business Week, "McKinsey was a key architect of the strategic thinking that made Enron a Wall Street darling. In books, articles, and essays, its partners regularly stamped their imprimatur on many of Enron's strategies and practices, helping to position the energy giant as a corporate innovator worthy of emulation."
So, they weren't involved in the actual criminal behavior, but created an arrogant culture that has no empathy for customers. And with no moral compass to discern, they did create conditions for other bacteria to grow.
Sitting in the dark in my hotel in California back then and walking 11 flights of stairs at the office for fear of getting stuck in the elevator was bad enough, but watching the arrogant Ken Lay, the son of a minister, on television telling the nation that 'our model was broken' and his was correct, I had to marvel at the arrogance. You can't cheat your business partners and then sit comfortably in church on Sunday.
We called for an ethical framework (plus see the video) that can change the face of business in this decade. Small changes in business practice values can make big wins.
Is the Second Decade a rejecting of the arrogance of business? With the appointment of the new Dean of the Harvard Business School, and the success of Vested Outsourcing, we hope that this is a harbinger of things to come.
To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.